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Sonia, Sushma have battled in past as well

New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s comments on Friday, comparing External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s remarks on the Lalit Modi issue to “theatrics” was not the first time the two leading politicians took potshots at each other.

Sushma Swaraj, who is among the senior ministers in the Narendra Modi government, had challenged Sonia Gandhi for the Bellary Lok Sabha seat in Karnataka in 1999 and made a contest out of the election on a seat considered a safe bet for the Congress. She polled 44.70 percent votes compared to 51.70 percent by Sonia Gandhi.

Sushma Swaraj vowed to shave her head if Sonia Gandhi became prime minister once the Congress-led coalition was in a position to form the government after the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. The Bharatiya Janata Party leader has since reiterated her opposition to Sonia Gandhi becoming the prime minister.

In an interview to NDTV in 2013, when she was Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj said her relationship with Sonia Gandhi was “marked by civility”.

She also said that Sonia Gandhi’s son Rahul Gandhi was not considered a challenge by her party as he had not shown the mettle to be the prime ministerial candidate.

Sushma Swaraj said the Congress did not know whether to project Rahul Gandhi’s image as “that of angry young man or a social activist”.

On Friday, both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi hit out at her over her speech in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, where she said she had not helped former Indian Premier League chief Lalit Modi but his ailing wife.

The Congress has been demanding the resignation of Sushma Swaraj over her alleged help to Lalit Modi, who is facing an Enforcement Directorate investigation, in getting British travel documents.

“Sushma Swaraj theatrics mein mahir hain (Sushma Swaraj is an expert in theatrics),” Sonia Gandhi said.

During her speech, Sushma Swaraj had asked: “What would have Sonia Gandhi done had she been in my place.”

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi answered the question, saying his mother would not have done anything like Sushma Swaraj.

Rahul Gandhi also made a strong attack: “After committing a theft, thieves go into hiding. What Sushma-ji did she did secretively. Not one person in the (external affairs) ministry knew she was going to do this. Whenever there is robbery or theft, a financial transfer takes place. Sushmaji’s family, her husband and daughter have received money from Lalit Modi. She should tell the country exactly how much money Lalit Modi has paid to her family.”

The BJP leaders hit back at Sonia Gandhi over her remarks concerning Sushma Swaraj, saying she could not even deliver a speech without a paper.